IPl 2021: Experienced CSK up against dazzling Delhi in playoff
Chennai have vastly experienced players. Delhi can't afford to relax
Both teams lost their respective last matches of the league stage, but Delhi Capitals have been the more consistent and impressive side in the second phase. In batting and bowling, the Delhi team, seeking their maiden title, have shown more depth of talent and certainly more energy and chutzpah on the field.
Chennai Super Kings started extremely well, but towards the closing stages appeared fatigued and faltering, losing three matches on the trot. If not for the points they had acquired in the first phase, which served as a buffer, Chennai probably would have struggled to qualify for the playoffs. They were lucky to finish in the top two, which gives them one more shot at reaching the final if they lose this match against Delhi in Dubai on Sunday (6pm UAE Time).
Delhi have looked the most vibrant and best-performing team this season, clubbing both phases. Playing in India or UAE did not materially alter their approach, nor the results. They’ve played attacking, attractive cricket and excelled in both departments of the game.
The batting’s been strong, so much so that stalwarts like Steve Smith and Ajinkya Rahane have had to spend most of the time in the dugout. In the second phase, Smith’s got a few matches, Rahane none at all. There’s been no need for changes since Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, skipper Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Shimron Hetmyer have been scoring consistently. With all-rounders Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin in the side, Marcus Stoinis’s absence hasn’t been felt.
More than the batting, however, Delhi’s bowling has given the team that extra edge. Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Avesh Khan have been superb at the start and in the death overs, spinner Axar has picked up wickets unfailingly. Ashwin hasn’t got many wickets, but every batsman on the circuit knows the threat he holds.
In the reserves, DC have bowlers like Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, which shows the depth of resources available to the coach and captain. They have made minimal changes in the second phase, which suggests they are clear in their game plans and the personnel needed to make these work.
Chennai’s problems are located primarily in batting. Apart from openers Ruturaj Gaikwad, who’s been the outstanding batsman this season, and Faf du Plessis, the performance of the other big names has been wobbly. Suresh Raina, CSK’s mainstay for so many seasons, has been in ragged form, Moeen Ali’s runs have dried up, Ambati Rayudu has been intermittently good while MS Dhoni has not looked in rhythm at all.
Jadeja has been in good touch but has surprisingly not been played higher in the order. Maybe Dhoni will do that now. The all-rounder – who’s been productive with bat and ball — looks the pivotal figure if CSK have to reach the final. Dhoni should even turn to Moeen, who has been under bowled so far, as pitches tend to play low and slow. In pace bowling too, CSK have looked iffy after the initial spurt of wins. Dhoni has used Josh Hazlewood extensively in this phase. The tall Aussie, such a threat in red-ball cricket, has looked good only in patches. Shardul Thakur’s wicket-taking ability is unabated, but he can go for a few. So too Dwayne Bravo, whose clever variations and improvisations worked superbly in the early matches before a niggle confined him to the dug-out.
On current form, Delhi look decidedly ahead. But Chennai have vastly experienced players and a brilliant legacy which shows that they know how to hold their nerve on the big occasion. Delhi can’t afford to relax.
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator
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